After the Falcons play the Packers on Monday night, they’ll be heading home to a stadium that actually has fans in it. If all goes well, the stadium will be “full” of up to 5,240 fans spread out throughout Mercedes-Benz Stadium, though that likely depends on the team winning and creating some kind of hope for the future.
The questions with allowing fans in stadiums when so many other places are shutting down or taking significant precautions to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 is how you keep fans properly separated and how you then disinfect the whole stadium to help prevent the spread. The former is a work in progress everywhere—not everyone wants to follow the guidelines, as we’ve seen over and over again—but the latter is something teams have spent the months between Feburary 2020 and now figuring out.
To wit, the Falcons will be cleaning Mercedes-Benz Stadium via drone. Yes, really.
The drone technology will be used for post-event disinfecting of the stadium’s seating bowl, handrails and glass partitions. The drones allow for a 95% reduction of the time needed to clean the seating bowl.
Per the ESPN article linked above, the drones will spray a weak acid solution commonly used in food service and other contexts to disinfect surfaces, which presumably is effective at killing the coronavirus. Anything that effectively keeps COVID-19 from spreading, given that the team is unlikely to decide against having fans in the stadium at all, is a big plus from our perspective. The question is always how effective these measures actually are, whether it’s drone cleaning or UV robots (the Panthers are using those) or whatever else, and whether using them will cause people to relax the preparations that we know make a difference in viral spread.
We’ll continue to hope, however unrealistic it might be, that A.J. Terrell will be the only positive test for the virus this season, and that those attending games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium can avoid it as well. If you see drones in the air over the stadium, at least you’ll know what they’re there for.